Major Annual Events in Japan
Spring has arrived, and now it is easier to spend time outdoors. In Japan, April is the month when the school and business year starts. Here is a list of annual events and happenings of Japan by month, starting from April.
New Semester/ New School Year/ New Business Year
Golden Week (Starts at the end of the month)
With beautiful skies and comfortable temperatures, it is a pleasant season around this time.
・New/ First Semester; New Business Year/ First-Half Year
In Japan, most establishments start their new school or business year in April, and this season is also called a New/ First Semester or a New Business Year/ First-Half Year.
For working people and new graduates, it is a time of significant change with new members joining and personnel transfers. For students, this is when the first semester (April to September) begins, and they start to learn new things and make new friends with mixed feelings of nervousness, worry, and excitement.
・Golden Week (starts at the end of April) Every year, many people who do not make any plans for these consecutive national holidays that fall at the end of the month usually start to panic when half of the holiday season is about to be over. The cost of both domestic and overseas travel is extremely high compared to the travel in June with no national holidays. Unlike western countries, getting a private vacation in Japan is not easy. Since most people all over Japan are on a break during Golden Week, people don't have to worry about influences on their coworkers, and many people plan to splurge on travel inside and outside of Japan.
During the holidays, including attractions, traffics, bullet trains, and flights, everywhere are super-crowded, which exhaust parents of kids, drivers, and people responsible for the trip. Still, it's a precious holiday. If everyone is happy even a bit, it should be fine!
NB: If you want to avoid crowds, check "Holidays in Japan–How to Spend Smartly"
May 5th is a national holiday called Children's Day and also a day of Tango-no Sekku (Boys' Festival). It derives from a custom of Samurai families that displayed their armor with a helmet to pray for their children's good health and carp streamers to wish for their healthy growth, strength, and social success. People celebrate this event by eating kashiwa-mochi rice cakes and chimaki (sticky rice dumplings).
In Japan, Mother's Day to express your appreciation is on the second Sunday of May. People usually give red carnations to living mothers and white carnations to mothers who passed away.
Like many other countries, in Japan, Father's Day to show gratitude is on the third Sunday of June. Yellow roses or sunflowers are said to be general to give, but many people seem to give something different or eat out with their father.
・The rainy season
The rainy season starts in June, and it gradually gets more humid. During this season, food goes bad quickly, and it takes longer to dry the laundry. People may feel more tired than usual. A variety of air conditioners with dehumidification functions and air purifiers are available in Japan.
"June Bride" is a famous term in Japan. Though the weather in this season is not so good for weddings, this term is well known because it has been used for about 50 years as an advertisement with a phrase, "Bride who marries in June will be blessed." However, recently, more people seem to have a wedding ceremony in the cooler season.
Tanabata (Star Festival)
・Tanabata (Star Festival)
Tanabata is an annual event derived from an ancient custom where people write their wishes on paper strips, hang them on bamboo leaves, and pray to the stars on July 7. Today, this festival is often celebrated at kindergarten and nursery school, but not by most adults.
Though the duration differs depending on the region, from around early July to before Obon season in August, people send Mid-year gifts mainly to the elders and business partners they appreciate as a summer greeting to express their gratitude.
・Summer vacation Summer vacation for students starts around Marine Day in July, which is the longest break of the year for them.
Fireworks festivals are held everywhere in Japan around August. Since the summer in Japan is so hot and humid, the culture of the culture of watching fireworks while enjoying the cool evening breeze has been passed on.
・Summer Festival Summer festivals were originally held as a prayer for keeping away pests and typhoons that put a good harvest in danger. Various summer festivals are carried out throughout Japan.
・Obon Festival It is said that the spirits of ancestors come back from the afterlife during Obon Festival, from August 13 to 15, and people remember and pray for their ancestors. Most people welcome them back to the place where they spent their lives (at home, etc.), make offerings to their ancestors, visit a grave/graves, and pray for their happiness in the afterlife.
Lots of companies and corporations close their offices and operations for this period.
After Obon, it is time when many students start to do their home assignment for summer vacation in a hurry, but of course, some students plan and do their homework systematically.
Respect-for-the-Aged Day is a national holiday on the third Sunday in September. People celebrate the longevity of the elderly and express everyday gratitude. Families enjoy a meal together and give gifts, and if their old parents or grandparents live far away, they contact each other via the web or phone.
The consecutive holiday in the leisure season of autumn in Japan, which falls in September, is called Silver Week, while the Spring long holiday that starts at the end of April is called Golden Week. Around this time, it is also called 食欲の秋 (shoku-yoku no aki: fall of appetite ) because lots of delicious seasonal food are harvested, and people get hungry the most in this season.
Second Semester; Last-Half Year
・Second Semester; Last-Half Year
For students, October marks the beginning of the second semester (October to March), while for working adults*, the beginning of the last half year.
*Although it may differ depending on the company, the last-half year mostly begins this month.
Sports Day is a national holiday on the second Monday of October. The purpose of this holiday is to encourage people to enjoy sports, have respect for others, and build a healthy and vibrant society. Sports Day used to be on October 10, and various student athletic meetings were held on this day. However, recently, there seems to be a trend of carrying out a sports meeting during this month or in May. A lot of sports events are held throughout Japan in October.
As you know, Halloween is a Christian holiday, and October 31 is said to be when ancestors return to this world and evil spirits come with them and kidnap children. To protect themselves from disasters, people dress up in costumes.
In Japan, people wear costumes and hold parties all around downtown. Recently, the area around Shibuya Station in Tokyo has become a hot topic in recent years, with police on high alert because of the crowds and commotion.
Shichi-Go-San (Seven-Five-Three) Day
Labor Thanksgiving Day
November 3 is a national holiday that aims to cherish freedom and peace in Japan and wish for the development of culture. Many exhibitions and other cultural events are held throughout the country, and some museums are free of charge on this day.
・Shichi-Go-San (Seven-Five-Three) Day
On November 15, three and seven year-old girls and five-year-old boys visit shrines to pray for their growth and happiness. On this day, seven, five, and three-year-olds receive and eat "Chitose Ame (one-thousand-year candy)" to wish for a "long, thin, healthy, and long life."
・Labor Thanksgiving Day
November 23 is a holiday to express gratitude towards working people and labor, regardless of whether they are paid or not. People do not gift anything but spend the day resting, going out, or doing whatever they like.
Although the timing varies from region to region, we give gifts mainly to the elders and business partners we appreciate from early December to the 20th as a token of our gratitude for the year.
In Japan, couples often spend time together and exchange gifts such as jewelry, a bag, etc., around Christmas day. The meal is typically Western-style, with most restaurants offering only courses, and reservations are required at many places. When people have a Christmas meal at home, KFC barrels and a decorated cake are the popular items.
Give or take one day, December 21 or 22 is the day of the winter solstice and considered to be the longest night. As it is reaching the end of the year, to eat anything whose name has a sound "ん (n)" is said to be lucky because the word for luck, "運 (un: luck)" has a sound of "ん". People eat mainly 南瓜 (kabocha/nankin: pumplin), 蓮根 (renkon: lotus root), 人参 (ninjin: carrots), 金柑 (kinkan: kumquat), etc. There is also a custom of taking "ゆず湯 (yuzu-yu: a yuzu bath with whole Chinese lemons)" to ward off evil spirits before wishing luck.
Many people return their parents' home at the end of the year to celebrate New Year. On the 31st, New Year's Eve, people eat 年越しそば (toshikoshi-soba: New Year's eve buckwheat noodles, which is said to ward off evil and disaster for the year and to prolong life.
New Year Holiday (Including the Year-End)
・New Year Holiday
People eat おせち料理 (osechi ryori: New Year's Dish) and お雑煮 (ozoni: New Year's soup) on New Year's Day. Each ingredient for osechi ryori has a meaning to express wishes, and by making preserved foods adding a lot of sugar and soy sauce, wives and mothers can take a break from housework . However, in recent years, people tend to buy osechi ryori rather than cook. Just browsing catalogs of various department stores, supermarkets, and specialty stores is a lot of fun.
There is also a custom of giving "お年玉 (otoshi-dama: New Year's monetary gift)" to children to celebrate New Year, and "お年賀 (onenga: new year's greeting gift)" mainly to relatives and parents as a way of asking them to keep in touch for the year. People usually bring a New Year's gift for a visit in person as a greeting.
The second Monday of January is a national holiday called Coming-of-Age Day, and a ceremony is held for those coming of age to join the adult society on this day. In Japan, the majority age was changed to 18 from 20 by amendment to the Civil Code in 2018. However, whether a ceremony is carried out for the young people aged 18 or 20 differs depending on the region. The reason is that some people leave their parents' home at 18 to become a working adult, and others prefer to join the ceremony at 20 because many 18-year-old high school students take universities' entrance examinations around this season.
Setsubun is celebrated on February 3, the day before spring begins, according to the calendar. People throw beans to drive out bad things, saying "Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi (: the devil is outside, happiness is inside)”, with a wish for the family’s health and happiness and eat one plus the same number of soybeans of age. But honestly, the older one gets, the harder it is to eat all the beans.
・Valentine's Day On February 14, women give chocolates to the men they love t